Get Some Rest
As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
July 16, 2021, Words By: Pat Thompson, Image By: Avel Chuklanov
Ever notice how the designers of the lectionary break up passages from time to time? It’s interesting to me that this week’s lectionary scripture is Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 when the action I am usually looking for in scripture can be found in between verses 45 and 52. Today, feeding the five thousand and Jesus walking on water takes a back seat to make way for a conversation on rest. The conversation is timely, as Covid seems to have changed everything, including how we think about ministry programs, how we build relationships, and even how we prioritize our own health in the midst of pursuing our own vocation and call.
The Lord said to them,
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Did He mean a nap? A break? A day off? A vacation? The possibilities in that one sentence are endless. I wonder what kind of rest the disciples were being invited into. Where, in our own lives, can we find rest? I was out to lunch with a couple of friends recently when somebody suggested we all find time for a weekend retreat together and the rest of us swooned. I started to daydream. But even though it sounded amazing, none of us could commit. Isn’t that always the way?
What happens next in the story is similarly deflating.
“So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.”
As much as Jesus wants them to rest, maybe go on a retreat together, He is moved away from His own proposal, because what He is really moved by is His compassion and deep love for people.
So did He ignore rest or is there something I am missing? I’m beginning to think that my own concept of rest must be sorely lacking as clearly, Jesus is modeling something that does not come naturally to me.
We all look for ways to cope when we’re in the midst of our daily grind. But there can be a temptation there to think that the work of the Spirit only gets done because we show up and try our hardest. We try to make the Sprit do Her work by fasting or reading scripture or praying loudly and fervently. We can also fall into the trap of “If I don’t do it, who will?” We see sheep with no shepherd or families looking for a food distribution or one of a hundred other needs in our communities and feel responsible to be the first responder to each one.
Obviously, good deeds are good as is prayer and fasting, but the problem comes when we stop being midwives to the work of the Spirit and think it all depends on our effort instead. Frustratingly, I can also be guilty of this dynamic. While Jesus doesn’t end up having the opportunity to physically rest, He is moved by compassion. Maybe that’s what Jesus’ invitation was all about from the very beginning. We can’t bootstrap ourselves into our vocation, but by connecting with the humanity in ourselves and others, we can bear witness to and call forth the places where the Holy Spirit is already at work.
Dwelling Among Us
How do you respond to Jesus’ invitation to come away and rest?